Case of the “Petrenko Group” goes to court. Political prisoners are still in detention
Originally appeared at Moldnews, translated by Greg Butterfield
October 19: Prosecutor General’s Office announced that it has completed its criminal investigation and referred the case of the “Petrenko Group” protesters, arrested on September 6 after a peaceful anti-oligarchic protest in front of its headquarters, to the court. Defense counsel argues that the “system is more worried about [oligarch Vladimir] Plahotniuc than about justice.”
As stated in the Prosecutor General’s press release, seven people, led by former deputy and honorary member of PACE Grigory Petrenko are accused of “committing mass disorder and violence in front of the Prosecutor’s General’s Office,” and, according to prosecutors, could face up to 8 years in prison.
Despite the fact that the case is going to trial, and this was known to the magistrates of the Appeals Chamber who held a hearing October 9 on a request for their release from preventive detention, the political prisoners remain behind bars, said lawyer Anna Ursachi, responding to questions from MOLDNEWS Agency.
“This speaks to the fear of the prosecutors, who brought the case without any evidence and on the instructions of Plahotniuc. Meanwhile, however, the country has seen three more events that overshadowed the incident around Grigory Petrenko. Prosecutors know that they can do nothing, there is no evidence, they could not even intimidate citizens with horror stories that Grigory Petrenko could unleash riots, and now they have decided to send his case to court to defend themselves,” lawyer Anna Ursachi told MOLDNEWS October 19.
Speaking of the detention of the political prisoners, Ursachi said that it is inexplicable from a legal point of view. “This only confirms the signal from the attacker Plahotniuc. It upsets me that the latest court decision was made when the judges already knew that the case was being referred to court. That is, the system is more worried about Plahotniuc than about justice,” added the lawyer.
According to her, proceedings on the merits of the case against the political prisoners will be held on October 28, while the peaceful protesters have remained under preventive arrest since September 6.
Grigory Petrenko, leader of the opposition party “Red Bloc,” former Member of Parliament, and honorary member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), was forcibly detained by police along with 7 other protesters on September 6 following protests in front of the Prosecutor General’s Office and an attempt to set up tents on the sidewalk outside the institution for an indefinite peaceful protest against the oligarchic regime. They have remained in jail since September 6. [One of the arrestees, a minor, was released.]
The detention and arrest of the protesters has sparked criticism from international organizations, European institutions, and politicians in several countries, who demanded their immediate release from custody.
Moreover, in the framework of the PACE autumn session, 32 deputies from all factions, representing 20 countries, signed a written declaration on the “Petrenko case,” in which they “clearly demanded from Moldova the immediate release of all political prisoners.” Thus, according to counsel, PACE recognized Grigory Petrenko and the others under arrest as “political prisoners” and oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc as “a threat to democracy.”